“To know a Boxer is to love a Boxer” Unknown. No statement could be more true. I’ve owned and loved Boxers for over 25 years. I can’t imagine owning any other breed. Along the way, they’ve taught me a few things I though I’d share.
Boxers are a very active breed and as such burn a great deal of calories. As a result, they do best on a diet high in both protein and fat. Some Boxers have GI issues when it comes to poultry. Purina ProPlan Lamb & Rice dog food addresses both of these needs. It has the highest concentration of both protein and fat of any commercially available dog food and the lamb seems to be a palatable substitute for chicken.
Initially, you will be feeding your puppy the ProPlan Puppy Lamb & Rice kibble. Although your puppies have lots of sharp teeth at 8 weeks, dry kibble can still pose a choking issue. For now, you’ll want to feed your puppy approximately ½ cup of kibble 3-4 times a day. Soak your kibbles in roughly the same amount of whole milk as the volume of dry kibble you are feeding for 20-30 minutes prior to feeding. Slowly decrease the amount of milk and soaking time as your puppy allows. You can eventually stop using milk altogether and add just a few teaspoons of hot water to wet the food and make it more appealing.
Gradually increase the amount of kibble given each feeding until you reach 1 cup 4 times a day. You should reach this point by about six months of age. The puppy should eagerly finish the entire amount of food each feeding. If there is consistently food left over, feed less each time or one feeding less per day. Do not feed more than 1 cup at a time until about six months of age.
Between 4 and 6 months of age, you can start to mix in the adult version of the same food. Initially give your puppy roughly 25% adult to 75% puppy food for a couple weeks. Once the puppy tolerates this change well, transition to 50% adult to 50% puppy. Continue this ratio for the remainder of his first year. When your puppy reaches one year of age, transition to feeding 100% adult food in the same manner.
If it is more convenient, you may consider feeding a total of 2 cups twice a day starting around six to eight months. Never feed more than 2 cups of food at a time during your Boxer’s life. Frequent smaller feedings are always best. Boxers are highly susceptible to bloat and large feedings increase the likelihood of the stomach flipping. Using an elevated food and water bowl also helps in this area. Any tall breed can benefit from eating/drinking in a more upright position.
Boxers should look lean, but not boney. A good rule of thumb for an adult Boxer is to just barely see the last two ribs. If you clearly see all of them, they need a little more food. If you can’t see any of them, consider a little less food. Small changes done consistently over a couple weeks will produce obvious results. Just like teenagers, puppies will look a little skinny while they are growing. They will begin to fill out between 12-18 months and essentially be done growing around 2 years.
Boxers have two speeds: 90 miles an hour and dead stopped. You will often find them curled up on your bed or coach. They like to be comfy. But don’t be fooled, they need to run around and be goofy. As a puppy, they will happily stay close to you until they are about 3-4 months old. At that point, they become more independent and may try to wander off. Fenced in yards provide them the room they need to burn off that excess energy, but Boxers can be easily trained to use an underground fence as well. If you choose to go with an underground fence, it is easiest to start training your Boxer puppy around 4 months of age. Too early and they get scared easily and may not want to go outside, too late and they are already a bit cocky and more willing to take the shock.
Boxers love to go for a walk. Start training them early to use a leash. Start by using a non-choke type collar and lightweight leash. Have them drag it behind them while they follow you. Take them somewhere safe so they can’t get into trouble if they unexpectedly wander off. Periodically pick up the leash and encourage them to walk along side you, preferably on your left side. Don’t drag! Don’t make it a struggle. Drop the leash and try walking forward without them. Call them to you, encourage them, and act all happy and playful. It is all about having fun and staying near you at this point.
After several outings, begin to get a little more insistent. They should be following you and staying on your left somewhat consistently. Begin to rein them in. They should ultimately walk right next to you with their head at your left knee. Gently tug them back if they get too far ahead or forward if they get too far behind. Always use their name followed by the word “heal”. If they don’t respond the first time, give a small tug and say it again. They learn very quickly at this age. They are very dependent on you for direction and leadership when they are this young. Take advantage of that fact.
Eventually, they will get bigger and stronger and you will need to transition to a metal choke collar and “pop” the leash if they don’t respond the first time. When using a choke collar, loop the chain such that it makes a “P” with the tail of the “P” being attached to the leash. Face the dog and place the collar over their head. This will ensure you have the collar oriented properly. Always remember to say their name follow by “heal”. It should never be a struggle. Don’t let them drag you. A quick reminder should be more than enough to get them to stay in the right position.
When I take my dog for a walk, it’s about the exercise, not an opportunity to mark the neighborhood. I encourage them to eliminate before we leave the yard. I like to use the phrase “Go Hurry”. Once we start our walk, I don’t let them sniff the ground. Their attention should be focused on me. If they stop to smell something, I give a quick tug, say “Dog name, No” and then repeat “Dog name, heal” and continue. Even if they are very young and are literally peeing as they walk, I keep going. Granted, the walks are kept short enough early on to allow us to get back to the yard before that happens. Once the walk is done, I give them the opportunity to eliminate in the yard by again saying “Go Hurry”. Once they’re done, I give them tons of praise and we go inside.
If you train your dog this way, you will have much more enjoyable walks. As an added bonus, when you stop the car for a bio-break, take them to a grassy area way away from the gas station, and tell them to “Go Hurry”. They do so quickly and you can get back underway with minimal delay. If you allow them to sniff constantly and put a drop or two here and there, you will be waiting a very long time for them to finish.
Boxers are highly intelligent and as such become bored easily. Give them something to do. Starts with lots of toys – Nylabone, fleece/rope, rubber (think Kong), and Latex are all good materials. Avoid vinyl, rawhide, and anything with tiny squeakers. Vinyl is sharp when ripped and pieces can easily be caught in the trachea or tear delicate organs. Rawhide swells when wet and does not digest. Not only is it a chocking hazard, it fills the puppy’s stomach making them feel full and not want to eat. Tiny squeakers are the first thing torn out of toys. They are definitely a choking hazard. As soon as the integrity of the toy has been compromised, remove the squeaker and throw it away.
Mix the toys up. Keep some back while playing with just a few. Boxers love new toys. Recycle the old ones making it a big deal each time the toy comes out of hiding. Every time I pick out a few toys to take on a trip or to the kennel, THOSE are the toys they just have to play with right now.
Never use a common household object as a toy – old tennis shoes, socks, empty water bottles. They don’t know the difference between your junk and your good stuff. If they have had it once, they will seek it out again. New shoes, socks, underwear, clothing will easily be mistaken as something OK to chew on. Bottles of shampoo, toilet bowl cleaner, colored drinks will be fair game. These things are not fun to clean up, especially if they have stained your carpet. If your puppy mistakenly plays with the wrong object, take it away, scold them with a stern voice, and then show them one of their toys and use a happy voice while encouraging them to play with it. Soon they will learn what is theirs and what is not.
Train them! The more you ask of your puppy, they more he will respect you. Boxers are working dogs. They want a job. Teach them basic obedience. Teach them to do something fun – high fives, walk on unstable objects, sit on small surfaces, walk between tight spaces or through tunnels. You may have to drag or insist the first time or two you ask them to do something new. Don’t let them win by allowing them to quit. Keep at it until they do what you’ve asked at least three times. Then praise them like crazy and go on to something else. The next time you ask them to do the newly learned task, there may be some reluctance, but it should go much quicker and more smoothly. Eventually, they will trust you and will eagerly do whatever you ask the first time.